Ruth wrote an awesome post last week that showed the parallels of deep sleep bed wetting with deep sleep debting. When I sat down to write my comment on Ruth’s post, I found it just kept getting longer and longer, so I figured I’d better wait and turn it into a post. 🙂
I found the parallels between the two problems quite fascinating. While we’ve never experienced deep sleep bed wetting, we have indeed experienced deep sleep debting.
Deep Sleep Debting Goes Beyond Denial
I wrote I little bit about our experience with getting into debt here. Basically, the story goes that we went in and out of credit card debt for years and years.
We’d rack up the debt, pay it off, (often with a home equity loan or withdrawal from our retirement accounts – this is the kind of CONsolidation loan that Dave Ramsey speaks of. Read this article to figure out if you’re a good candidate for debt consolidation. ) and stay debt free for awhile.
Then we’d slowly fall right back into debt again. I remember us having specific conversations about our debt. We’d tell ourselves things like:
When we had paid off the debt: “I’m so glad we’re debt free. We’re being so much better than most people.”
When we had accumulate “some” debt: “We only have a few thousand in debt – we’re doing so much better than most people.”
When the debt had gotten out of hand: “We’re spending so much less than most people. Most people have………and we don’t, so our debt is not our fault.”
We really and truly believed these excuses as we praised/comforted ourselves with them. I think a big part of the problem was that we were so hyper-focused on having approval from others and comparing ourselves with others that we never sat down to figure out what we wanted from our money and our lives. We wanted to fit in and be accepted, and we thought that the opinions of others truly mattered.
The problem was compounded by the fact that we lived at the time in a community that is very “keep up with the Joneses” focused. I remember when we lived there that people would comment about the oddities of the city, but they just couldn’t put their fingers on what it was about the city that seemed strange. I think what they were seeing was the hyper-focus on needing to appear to “have it all”, and I think that’s a problem that exists in many people/areas today.
It wasn’t until we moved out of the city into the country that we saw the situation and our addiction to it in a new light. When we first moved here, the people came and introduced themselves. They never talked about cars or houses or possessions or appearances. It was odd at first, for us anyway. We fully expected to be sized up by what we owned. As the months wore on it because more and more clear that no one out here cared.
The Deep Sleep Wake-Up Alarm
It was during that time that we started to look at our money based on our own dreams and not based on the opinion of others. Someone in the community here had mentioned when we told them where we lived that our street was the “wealthy street”. Apparently, many of the people who live on this street have some serious wealth, but you certainly wouldn’t know it by looking at them. They wear non-name brand jeans and cheap t-shirts. Some have nice cars, others don’t. Some have nice houses, others don’t. Some have lots of toys, others don’t.
As we started to think about these things, the words written in The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy – a book I’d read years before – started to ring true. We saw it in our wealthy neighbors: Truly wealthy people care nothing about keeping up with the Joneses.
And we discovered that we were dangerously close to the line of being people with big hats and no cattle. We had a few cattle, but the size of our hats definitely came close to the number of cattle we had.
Living out in the country, we were now left alone with ourselves and our financial mess.
The first fact we woke up to was the fact that we needed to make a change, so we made a change from a behavioral standpoint. We made a budget. We started spend-tracking. The changes were hard at first, though, and we needed to dig deeper and figure out why they were so hard.
We started the hard work of analyzing what tempted us to spend and what feelings were driving us to want to buy when we knew our money could be put to better use paying of debt and building wealth.
Our mindset at the beginning was one of compromise with our emotional spending – even though we didn’t realize it at the time. It was kind of like the gambling addict that says “I’m only going to spend $20 at the casino instead of $200” or the alcoholic who says “I’m only going to have one drink.” We limited our spending through the use of a budget. The problem still existed; it was just that we now had it under control.
Until a more serious emotional issue would rise up. Then we’d fall of the wagon and get back on again, convincing ourselves again that it was okay because we were “better than most people” and better than we had been in the past.
In 2014 and 2015, though, the deep-seeded problems that were causing our emotional spending came to a head. We had begun peeling back the layers of hurts that had cause the emotional spending and hit upon some huge emotional abscesses that had been buried very, very deep for many, many years.
As we recognized and dealt with those abscesses, our debt skyrocketed once again. We were back to trying to make it through the day.
But things were different this time. The good news was that we recognized the abscesses and worked on healing them. We knew this needed to be a top priority if we were to truly conquer emotional spending and its causes.
We didn’t abandon our financial goals completely; instead we made more conscious decisions about spending even if we knew the choices meant higher debt because they were spending choices that aided in the healing of our deep-seeded wounds. The spending choices were now a means to an end. There were lots of counseling expenditures as we learned to identify and heal our individual wounds. There were healing types of expenditures that were key in the healing process.
Although there were emotional spending expenditures on occasion, the descent deeper into debt was largely very conscious. But this time we knew that it was a means to an end. It’s not that we were okay with going deeper into debt – it’s that we knew that really and truly healing the causes behind our emotional spending meant we would be able to kick emotional spending to the curb forever.
We had awoken out of our deep sleep debting and were doing the painful work of analyzing why it happened, but that painful work also came with the benefit of true and lasting healing.
After many, many months of diagnosis and healing, our deep-seeded emotional problems are largely behind us. We no longer need our deep-sleep debting alarm. No more buying/doing/having in order to comfort ourselves from hidden fears or doubts. We’ve learned to love ourselves both as the emperor with no clothes and as the emperor in royal attire. In other words, our debt no longer defines and neither do our possessions, our successes or our failures.
We’re simply a family on a journey to get out of debt. We haven’t gone to a restaurant on our own dime in months. Our total entertainment spending for our family of six for the last three months comes in at a whopping $41.54. We are happy as we are and no longer use entertainment as a way to pick ourselves up from emotional crashes because the causes behind the emotional crashes are largely under control.
I think a lot of deep sleep debtors are in the situations they’re in for this same reason: they’re trying to find happiness through spending and not realizing that there are deeply-hidden problems that are taking away their happiness and that the spending solution is only temporary.
I see this as I look at loved ones around us who are still caught in the emotional spending cycle. They work, work, work to achieve joy/acceptance/peace through spending money but end up as disappointed as they were in the first place – only deeper in debt.
How to Help
When I think about how people could’ve helped us when we were financially clueless, I think the best they could’ve done was planted seeds. People planted seeds with us for years. We even took Dave Ramsey’s course when we were younger, but it didn’t do us much good because we hadn’t gotten to the root of the spending problem. We hadn’t truly understood what was causing us to be okay with spending beyond our means.
And honestly, we weren’t emotionally ready to get to the root of the problems for many, many years. The hurts were still too fresh, but I think these two things would’ve helped us get ready earlier.
Shower Them With Unconditional Love
Deep sleep debting is often caused by very, very painful experiences that are hard to face up to, and I think one of the best things outsiders can do to help a deep sleep debtor is to show them lots and lots of unconditional love. Unconditional love is hard to find in today’s world, and seeing others through the eyes of Christ will help you to be a giver of unconditional love and will soften the heart of a deep sleep debtor toward you, making them more open to your advice.
Share Your Victories
Not in a judgmental way but just in a way that shows how excited you are to be free. When the opportunity arises, share what you found was causing your emotional spending, how you dealt with it and how it’s freed the hold money and spending had on you. Share when it’s appropriate and be careful not to come off as condescending or judgy.
I know that Ruth sharing her story has led to more than a few people asking her how she did it, and in the process has inspired them to start their own journeys to debt freedom. I think that’s because Ruth has been so open about her and DH’s story when she feels led to be.
Deep sleep debting is a huge, huge problem in today’s first world countries. And I think if those who’ve broken free of its chains keep working to help when they have the chance, we can indeed make a difference to the people within our sphere of influence.
What has your experience with deep sleep debting been? How have you been able to work toward overcoming it? What tips do you have for helping those still struggling with deep sleep debting?